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Introduction from our Training Director

Introduction from our Training Director

Note: If you’ve made it to this page we’d like to say well done, you are doing the right research as the people you learn from make the difference, not just on the course but beyond as support in your dive career.  In todays fast track consumeristic society, it’s very easy even for dive professionals to accelerate their way to Instructor Trainer status and disguise a lack of real diving experience with qualifications and images.  If you want to stand out as a dive professional and educator then choose your Course Directors with diverse experience to support their qualifications, not just a Course Director with limited experience to warm water only, or one type of clientele or just one dive center.  We encourage you to choose an Instructor Trainer who has worked in a variety of diving environments (cold water, tropical, ocean, quarry/lake, current, cave, wreck) and with different dive centers and clientele, in all areas of diving. 

Hi, my name’s Andy and I’m the resident PADI Course Director and ‘Director of Professional and Technical Training’ for the Utila Dive Centre. I just wanted give you an insight into my personal and diving background so you know more about myself, the Instructor Development Course (PADI IDC) and other professional or technical courses that our team offers through the Utila Dive Centre located on Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras, Central America. Utila is located off the North coast of Honduras, Central America, in the Western Caribbean, and is famous for the whale shark and quality dive training from PADI Open Water to Instructor Development Courses and Technical diver training.

Any dive professional will tell you, you’ll always remember the first time you blow bubbles underwater. Well, for me, I can think back to the first time I went swimming as a mere 5 year old and was fascinated with immersing myself in the local swimming pool – then add a few vacations as a teenager to the Mediterranean, snorkeling and boating, and I soon fell in love with the underwater world. I became certified as a diver in 1990 on a vacation in Greece, and in 1997, after finishing university and working in insurance for 6 months, I made my decision to ‘Go Pro’ and became a PADI Divemaster on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. What a lifestyle! As a Divemaster I enjoyed driving boats, running daily dive operations, finding the elusive whale shark, assisting Instructors on PADI certification programs and organizing dive safaris. My employer at the time convinced me I would make a good Instructor, so in 1998 I enrolled in the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) and since then have never looked back, traveling from South East Asia to the Caribbean to take my Instructor course, which opened up countless new opportunities.

I took my IDC in the Bay Islands of Honduras in 1998 and worked on this beautiful island of Utila for months. If you’re fortunate enough to know anyone who has visited this island, they will tell you stories about the great diving, amazing lifestyle and Caribbean pace. Thousands of people arrive on this island every year for PADI certifications and all other levels of dive training, activities and whale shark expeditions.  It’s a great place to gain experience as an Instructor, and within 6 months I had certified over 100 ‘Open Water’ divers. Still, I had a desire to travel, so I soon headed down to the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica ro work in a resort and to enjoy pelagic encounters and then traveled to Dahab, Egypt Red Sea, where I worked as an Instructor for another 6 months, teaching shore diving and naturalist classes about the aquatic beauty to be found in the pristine waters of the Red Sea, a total contrast to the dry desert that surrounds it.  It was in 1999, in Dahab, with its deep walls and infamous ‘Blue Hole’, that I qualified with ‘Technical Diving International’ as an ‘Extended Range’ technical diver with guidance from Red Sea TDI technical diving guru ‘Dr Ahmed Kamal’ and found a new love in diving, deep exploration.

In 2000, the turn of the millennia, I once again felt the call of the Caribbean and returned to Utila to work as the resort manager for the Utila Dive Centre, one of the top facilities for diver training in the Caribbean and Central America.  After 2 great years of working with Utila Dive Centre, I was accepted by PADI in 2001 onto the ‘Course Director Training Course’ at PADI Headquarters in Newport Beach, California, and at the age of 28 was one of the youngest PADI Tec Rec Instructor Trainers in the world.

In the last 17 years, I have conducted over 160 Instructor Development Courses and trained over 3000 Instructors at all levels, from ‘Open Water Scuba Instructor’ to Trimix Instructor.

In recent years I have also been invited by the dive industry to share my experience and expertise in particular fields and talk at dive seminars and conferences. I have also reviewed PADI educational materials and consulted for other dive operations and resorts.

As well as holding the highest qualification in recreational diving as a PADI Course Director (Professional Association Diving Instructors) from 2005 to 2017 I received an award of ‘Platinum’ status for recognition of my time and quality in training Instructors beyond the standard and at higher levels than the IDC for the last 12 consecutive years. There are only 50 PADI Course Directors worldwide with ‘Platinum’ status and just a handful who have achieved this for 13 consecutive years. This award is a reflection of the quality and post IDC support and assistance that we provide to our candidates in securing employment. In November of 2014, 2011 and 2009 at the DEMA dive shows, I was privileged to be invited by PADI and other dive industry entities to talk amongst my peers, including a 1000-strong audience of dive professionals, resort owners and retailers, about what has made UDC one of the most successful Instructor centers in the world. In September 2010 myself and my colleagues who conduct Divemaster training at Utila Dive Centre consulted closely with PADI and beta tested their new revised Divemaster program, giving our feedback and experience to help refine the new PADI Divemaster course.

My other diving interests are in closed circuit rebreather diving, qualified on the Poseidon, Inspiration and Megalodon units, technical trimix diving as an IANTD Trimix Instructor (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers) and cave diving as an NSS-CDS full cave certified diver (National Speleological Society – Cave Diving Section), with many hours logged exploring the cenotes/cave systems of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. I returned from a caving trip in April 2010 from Mexico, where I was trained in the use of side mount tank configuration and exploration techniques and had a great time learning new techniques to integrate into our technical training programs on Utila. I am one of the few Rebreather Instructor Trainers worldwide. In August 2010, I was one of the first divers on closed circuit rebreather to locate a cave on a submerged volcano in the Galapagos, and was also one of the first rebreather divers supported on a liveaboard trip in recent years, and was invited back in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 to both the Yucatan and the Galapagos to continue this exciting exploration.  In July 2013 I also was part of an expedition to dive the Andrea Doria (the Mount Everest of scuba diving) and discuss and utilize the advanced techniques we deployed, into our technical training programs on Utila.  In September 2013, 2015 and 2017 with Galapagos Rebreathers, I co-organized one of the biggest rebreather expeditions to the Galapagos in recent history with over 14 closed circuit rebreather divers supported, and we had over 40+ whale shark encounters and 90+ minute dives with thousands of Hammerhead sharks and exploring unknown deeper sites.  In May/June of 2016 I also lead a trip to Truk Lagoon/Palau in for divers wanting to explore the famous Japanese fleet in Truk from WWII and explore pristine reef systems.  I was also invited to La Paz in Baja California, Mexico, by Luke Inman of Cortez Expeditions to help survey and video deep water virgin tech diving sites.  In November 2016 I spent 3 weeks diving the remote reefs of the world famous coral triangle of Komodo, Raja Ampat and Manado in Indonesia.

I still teach at all levels of training, from PADI Open Water course up to our IDC’s, and still love seeing the expressions on diver’s faces after introducing them to the underwater world for the first time – like I know you will.  On a professional note, I love to share my experience, technical knowledge and travel background in the dive industry with the Instructors I train through Utila Dive Centre.  I am currently only one of a handful of PADI’s Closed Circuit Rebreather Instructor Trainers worldwide and in August 2012 I completed my ‘Disabled diver/Adaptive teaching’ Instructor Trainer rating with IAHD-Americas so we could offer a superior level of training to our divers and dive professionals at Utila Dive Centre.  This way not only can we share our passion for teaching with all our Divemaster and Instructor candidates, but we can now qualify them to work with divers with disabilities and adaptive teaching techniques.  In 2013 I also qualified as an Instructor Trainer for International Yacht Training boat programs, to offer our candidates more employment opportunities and sophisticated training.

Every year I make an effort to explore a new place on land and underwater and take another dive course. Utila’s a great place, not just for diving but also for enjoying sailing, conservation projects, marine exploration, watersports and off road biking. I hope you enjoy reading through this website and learning about the other team members I work with, and get a good feel for our dive operation and approach to dive training and environmental conservation. In addition to being dive educators and Instructors at all levels, our team are also travelers, conservationists and explorers with a passion for what we do, always looking to excel in customer service and professionalism with the latest innovations in dive training. If you don’t have it already, then you’ll find a similar passion, curiosity and hunger for knowledge and skills awakens when you train with our team and facility, and then you’ll soon be passing this on to other divers.

It’s always really good when researching a facility for professional training, to understand the philosophy and culture behind the dive operation, and the type of diving and training you’ll be doing.  Whether you choose Utila Dive Centre or somewhere else for your training, it’s very important to try and know more about the background and philosophy behind a dive centre, this will make a big difference in the shaping, foundation and outlook that an Instructor has to the dive industry and also diving.

I do believe that we are unique, in that our staff and management, are more experienced divers and committed professionals than the majority of other centers in the Americas. We’re not just offering basic training as required by PADI, but we’re a real world diving environment, with courses at all levels being conducted almost daily. During a candidates time with us, as they are training from a basic recreational level to becoming a dive professional, they will assist a multitude of courses, and also learn by seeing other levels of training occur around them, from tec diving, rebreather diving, marine ecology programs, sidemount diving, and adaptive teaching. This culture within our facility, our staff and environment really sets a solid foundation for a candidates career and pays for itself many times over.

I made a career choice like the majority of Instructor candidates do, many years back, and at the time planned just a few years working and traveling in the industry, and never planned to take the path that I did or develop a career in the dive industry. I believe that exposure to a real world diving environment, and being fortunate to have mentors who were committed divers and Instructors, and not just vocational Instructors (or resort/pool sales people), encouraged me to advance and get more out of this profession. At Utila Dive Centre we are principally a dedicated team of active divers and professionals (I believe the most qualified and active worldwide!), and we all still continue our own education each year, and really take our mentorship and role-modeling seriously and we measure our success not by financials, numbers or pass rates, but by how our candidates succeed within the industry, and for that reason take an ongoing interest in every one of the professionals we train, not just during the courses but years after their time with us.  In fact most of the PADI Course Directors currently active in the Caribbean/Central America have received tutelage and guidance from myself at some point of their own careers as we set the bar and standard for professional training in the region and will support you long after your course is over, our consistency, track record, reputation and results are proof of that and will help you become the most successful dive professional you aspire to.

We’ve created a Youtube channel and Facebook community that tries to give you a feel for our facility, and would encourage you to take a look at these if you haven’t already, just be aware the videos do not do UDC or Utila justice, so if you enjoy what you see, just wait till you join us!

Please feel free to e-mail or call me for any specific questions you have. I hope you are able to join our team on this beautiful island in the near future!

Yours sincerely,
Andy Phillips M.sc.

Director of Professional Training

info@goproutila.com
USA broadband phone 305 4205959

DIVING QUALIFICATIONS
PADI Course Director, Tec-Rec & Closed Circuit Rebreather Instructor Trainer
DAN Instructor Trainer
IAHD Americas ‘Adaptive Teaching/Disabled Diver’ Instructor Trainer
International Yacht Training Instructor Trainer
Beautiful Oceans Science Instructor Trainer
IANTD Closed Circuit Rebreather Instructor
IANTD Technical Instructor Trainer
NSS-CDS Full Cave Diver/IANTD Side Mount Cave Diver
Mares, Scubapro, DiveRite and Cressi-sub Equipment Technician

SPECIALTY INSTRUCTOR TRAINER
Sidemount, Search & Recovery, Oxygen Provider, Underwater Photographer and Digital Photographer, Wreck, Night Diver, Deep, Enriched Air Diver, Tec Rec Trimix Blender, Underwater Naturalist, Tec Rec Trimix Diver, Science Diver, Underwater Navigator, Alantis/Dolphin Rebreather, Lionfish containment, Equipment Specialist, Diver Propulsion Vehicle, Emergency O2 provider.

WORK EXPERIENCES
2000-2018 Utila Dive Centre, Honduras, Instructor to Course Director and PADI Technical Instructor Trainer
1999 Dahab, Egypt, Red Sea PADI Instructor and Resort Operations Manager, TDI Technical Diver
1998 Utila, Honduras, PADI Instructor
1998 Osa Peninsular, Costa Rica Pacific PADI Instructor and dive guide
1997 Koh Tao, Thailand, PADI Divemaster and Boat Captain

ADDITIONAL DIVING EXPERIENCES
2017 Closed Circuit Rebreather expedition to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2016 Remote reef exploration – Raja Ampat, Indonesia
2016 Wreck diving expedition – Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
2016 Deep site exploration using trimix – La Paz, Baja California, Mexico
2015 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2015 Closed Circuit Rebreather expedition to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2014 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2013 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2013 Largest ever Closed Circuit Rebreather expedition to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2013 Expedition to dive the Andrea Doria shipwreck with a link to my public album on Facebook – 170 miles off New York, USA
2012 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2011 Closed Circuit Rebreather Liveaboard trip to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2011 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2010 Closed Circuit Rebreather Liveaboard trip to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2010 Side Mount cave training and exploration – Yucatan Mexico
2009 Liveaboard trip to Darwin/Wolf Islands – Galapagos
2008 Southern Red Sea – Sudan diving expedition
2006 December, Closed Circuit Rebreather diving with Hammerheads at Cocos Island, Costa Rica
2006 May, Safety & Support Diver for Bay Islands Mega Yacht cruise tour
2004 January, Lake Atitlan 5400ft, Guatemala, Search and Recovery Trimix dives to 300ft/96mt for downed $2 million ‘Eurocopter’
2004 May, Tulum, Mexico, Cave Exploration
2003 May, Tulum, Mexico, NSS-CDS Cave training program
2003 January, Cape Town, South Africa, Cage diving experience with Great White
2001 January, Galapagos, Ecuador, 1 month of pure adrenalin diving one off the best sites in the world, sharkfest!!!!!

SPEAKER/CONSULTING EXPERIENCES
2017 PADI Instructor Development Course Curriculum review
2014 November DEMA  DiveNewsWorks – How to Hire and be Hired ‘Succeeding in Today’s Dive Industry’
2011 November DEMA  PADI Live Seminar ‘Succeeding in Instructor Development
2010 November DEMA  Mini-Seminar ‘Excelling in Niche Markets’ in the Dive Industry
2010 October UK Dive Show Coral reef surveying
2010 September, consulting and beta testing new PADI Divemaster program
2009 DEMA ‘Believe’ Seminar on Innovation in the Dive Industry
2009 PADI Instructor Development Course Curriculum review
2007 DEMA Beautiful Oceans Seminar – Implementing Environmental educational programs into dive training

EDUCATION
2009    Msc E-commerce, Dalhousie University, Canada
1996    BA HONS Business & Marketing, Brunel University, UK

AWARDS
2017; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2016; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2016; ‘Elite 300’ status for PADI teaching certifications
2015; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2015; ‘Elite 300’ status for PADI teaching certifications
2014; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2013; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2012; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2011; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2010; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2009; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2008; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2007; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2007; ‘Outstanding Contribution to Instructor Development’ from PADI for commitment to training dive professionals
2006; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2005; ‘Platinum’ status for recognition in training Instructors beyond the IDC
2005; 1 ‘Certificate of Excellence’ from PADI for conducting ‘Instructor Development Courses’ and 1 certificate for ‘Contribution to Dive Safety & Education’ from Divers Alert Network
2004; 2 Certificates of ‘Recognition of Excellence’ from PADI for IDC customer service and conducting ‘Instructor Development Courses’
1 Certificate for ‘Outstanding contribution to Instructor Development’ from PADI
2003; 4 Certificates ‘Recognition of Excellence’ from PADI for IDC customer service
2002; Certificate for ‘Outstanding contribution to Instructor Development’ from PADI
2001; Certificate for ‘Outstanding contribution to Instructor Development’ from PADI

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